The image materialized at 10:56:20 p.m. from an inhospitable place and a distance of 250,801 miles. It was grainy. It was irresistible. It marked the first stride of a wondrous journey that ultimately led nowhere.
It has been exactly 40 years since astronaut Neil Armstrong climbed down a ladder and stirred the powdery surface of the moon. Four days earlier, he had awakened in Florida.
''That's one small step for man,'' he said, "one giant leap for mankind."
During the next three years, 11 other astronauts, all American, walked on the moon. And that was that. Humans never again touched a distant celestial body.
Today, there's no lack of ambition and goal-setting at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which is mapping long-range plans for a lunar base and eventually a human mission to Mars.
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